Race and Authenticity: A Film Study on Douglas Sirk’s Imitation of Life

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Passing, United States, Women on 2021-02-10 17:27Z by Steven

Race and Authenticity: A Film Study on Douglas Sirk’s Imitation of Life

Drunk Monkeys

Ilari Pass

Image © Universal Pictures

“It’s a sin to be ashamed of what you are.”
—Annie Johnson, Imitation of Life

Literature helps the reader travel inside the skin of the character—the mystery of another human being—and this understanding unsettles the reader’s received notion about the ‘other,’ a person who might be otherwise judged. The same can be applied to studying a film, allowing us to enhance our appreciation of subject matter that depicts a range of human experience by carefully looking at the artistic systems, such as cinematography, lighting, costume, and acting, that produce a rich and textured work of art. Douglas Sirk’s 1959 melodramatic film Imitation of Life, which depicts the lives of four different people living in a world that is beyond their control, is a film that operates at the level of art. The first half of the film deals with a question from a feminism perspective, about what it means to be a woman living in a male-dominated society, and the second half addresses the perspective of how women of color are affected by racism. It is a story about imitating, pretending to be something that isn’t true. However, what is true is what the characters literally see—gender and race—something no one can walk away from…

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